Sunday, June 10, 2007

Atlas Reborn: The Making of the Novel

When I set out to write Atlas Reborn, I wanted something realistic in view of the way the human race would be advancing in terms of technology and a glimpse into the future of families and the nature of relationships. Taking 10 years in the concept, 1 year in the writing, 2 years in the publication, Atlas Reborn is a journey not only for the protagonist Dennis Thorne, but the author too.

Atlas was originally set in Los Angeles, 2050 AD, an age where machines had taken over. Post-9/11, I realized that the real threat facing mankind would be an unknown enemy. At one point of time, the unsavory elements would be uncontrollable. For instance, the character Zeus was initially conceived as a wanted rebel leader. The actual success of terror is in the attention given by the masses. That is possible through sensational features of a news channel. Zeus would be far more dangerous as a twister of truth than an extremist with so-called justified causes.

Therefore, the setting was changed to New Eden, 2100 AD, decades after the bombing of the San Andreas Fault, the fall of California, the Water Wars, the division of America and a mad race for immortality. Genesis Brotherhood is a secret society much like the ones mentioned in the conspiracy theories of the past. What they do is up to the readers to find out.

Placing Alaska, parts of Canada, United States and West Mexico in a new subcontinent could have severe political implications. This also gives the Atlas story room for conflict. Creating a world from scratch was an excruciating process.

Likewise, naming each character was an uphill task, except in Dennis Thorne’s case. The toughest was that of his parents. Zeus did not have a last name till I pondered on one symbolizing absolute power. Nimrod was added as a result.


Trivia

Characters

Dr. Lucifer – Although he was assigned a particular task, he questioned the motive behind it. He represents the challenge to any ‘perfect’ system.

Solomon – Inspired by the wise Biblical king

Nimrod – The man who ruled a vast army, which had a common objective, and was scattered in the process of establishing a new order of politics

Patrick Roger Joaquin – This was taken from my college friend: Peter Rajesh Joachim. The book character Patrick signifies friendship. He co-starred Dennis Thorne in the play Robin Hood: Tales From Sherwood. They were together at the twilight of the innocent phase in the book.

Locations

United New Eden Commonwealth (UNEC) – pronounced Unique (ironical that it is not unique from earlier civilizations)

New Eden – The political system has bridged science and spirituality in order to preserve a certain notion of harmony. It seems like an attempt at redemption, but Terrortech offers a new ideology in the form of a ‘forbidden fruit’.

Gateway Of Eden – The second fall of man is explored, be it in the form of Book I or a landmark.

The Bridge of Hope – Connecting a chunk of erstwhile California to New Eden, the link shows the possibility of history repeating itself (and leaving such archaeological traces again). Yet there is a rebirth at every turn.

Seth Valley, Eve National Park – According to the Bible, Seth is the offspring of Adam and Eve. The elder son Cain eliminated Abel and disappeared. In Atlas Reborn, Eve has been indirectly linked to Mother Nature. In short, human beings may synthesize their environments.

Virgo City – Currently, women are gradually gaining economic power with self-sustaining employment. Even the laws favor them. Hence, they will have the potential to raise even a city of their own.

The Daniel Phoenix Memorial Cemetery – Named after the Biblical prophet Daniel, the surname Phoenix indicates that like Daniel Phoenix, another crusader will arise whenever the world needs one. The cemetery symbolizes the increased probability of someone coming out of the ashes.

Mediapolis – The media is a booming industry. With the newspapers, radio, electronic and new media becoming products more than information providers, the trend is that if there are no concrete regulations, this could condition an entire generation of ignorant men and women.

Fort Troy – Inspired by the ‘Trojan Horse’, this facility is meant to launch surprises even in the twenty-second century.

Miscellaneous

Book II: The Seventh Day – God created Heaven and Earth in six days, and on the seventh day, He took rest. Then man became restless.

Serpent – Taken from the being who tempted Eve

Language – English, Multiple (there is no absolute language)

Religion – Multiple (there is no dominant one here)

Currency – Delta (derived from the Greek letter and connected with a river’s entry into the sea, where submerged California lies)

Solar Guardians – This can be easily equated to the guardian angels.

Robin Hood

Book I, Chapter 1: Dennis’ Thorn showcases a play titled Robin Hood: Tales From Sherwood. It introduces Dennis Thorne and acts as a prophecy of sorts. The play also functions as a statement. There was always a system being challenged, with the man-woman relationship as the primary casualty.


Year 1: 1994 - The Movies

I began experimenting with sketches of Batman and Superman based on the 1980-1992 movies on the same characters. I had watched Hollywood director John McTiernan's Die Hard (1988) and I was already a die hard fan of Renny Harlin's Die Hard 2 (1990). These were particularly influential on my short stories and comic books titled Nithin's Adventures, where I fit into a variety of job descriptions ranging from a reporter to a New York Police Department Lieutenant. My storytelling interests had begun to grow because of the patronage of my old school friend Srirangan. He would demand me to tell a story when we travel in the school bus. By the time we reach school, the story will reach an interesting phase and I will have to continue it in the next session. He used to add his bit to the stories by making guest appearances in my imaginary adventures. In the series, I was married to Nisha. There was an episode called 'Casanova' that I was particularly shy to develop because the premise was the disproving of an allegation that I was having an extra-marital affair. The fun part was the effort I had put up to keep Nisha unaware of the whole controversy. The serial had lots of twists, usually involving people familiar in my day-to-day life. However, due to the violent content in my comic book adaptations of the same stories, my father had decided to put a ban on it. I continued my work in secret.

Year 2: 1995 - The Comic Strip

My father and I worked on a non-violent concept called Greenman, though he had wanted it to be Goodman. It was a sensational hit among the relatives and my schoolmates, although a majority of them did not understand the stories. I had a particular chronology in mind, but I never used to follow it. Greenman was heavily re-crafted for use in Atlas Reborn. The final result is Dr. Frank Greene. Meanwhile, John McTiernan's Die Hard With a Vengeance was released. I saw it without my father's knowledge, and that cemented my affinity for action stories. Yet I could not even include a single gunshot in Greenman. There was one instance where a thug had fired his gun. My father altered the scene. He made Greenman melt the bullets midway with his eyes. So if the scene has a gunfire sound effect "Ratatatatat!", he would make me write "Rata...", and thus censoring was an intricate part of my life. I had initially objected to it, but after several negotiations, I agreed to his terms.
Greenman lasted till 2001. Then it underwent the metamorphosis mentioned earlier to Dr. Frank Greene. Elsewhere, movies like Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992) and Batman Forever (1994) had begun to overshadow my earlier fascination for Superman. The comic books of influence were Archie, Superman, Batman and The Flash. What particularly caught my eye was the facilities in Veronica Lodge's home (Archie).

Next: Year 3

The Leading Ladies in Dennis Thorne's Life

This interests any reader, although this particular character had a bigger role to play in the protagonist’s life other than being available or elusive. After considering several names, Donna-Jaye Warner got the green signal. It was after her entry that the heroine had an effective presence. Her ‘Celebrities Tonite’ was loosely based on ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’. As far as present day Hollywood actresses are concerned, a combination of the success of Keira Knightley and the plateau in Gwyneth Paltrow’s career was the source of inspiration.

In Atlas Reborn, she gained a respectable reputation as a no-nonsense celebrity believing in moving ahead with her life. Her frankness often offends people, especially potential suitors.

Donna-Jaye Warner’s father Derek featured in the earlier drafts of Atlas Reborn. Due to character constraints, he could not be included. So, Donna-Jaye is introduced as an orphan representing the innocent bystander.

Will Dennis Thorne stand a chance against this gutsy celebrity? Atlas, with all his gifts, may find in her a force to reckon with.

The Props Used in Atlas Reborn

There are items like a typical science-fiction book, but here, I expanded the inventory. While there are jetcopters to replace the present day helicopters, ‘Wisdom Manual for Idioms and Phrases’ is a book that any bookworm would probably read in the 22nd century. One can see that I desired a parallel with real life, where we would actually require such books. This is just a sample. How about an advanced refrigerator?

Dennis Thorne's Personal World

One of the notable aspects of Atlas Reborn is the relationships. A lot of science-fiction stories, films in particular (save ‘Star Wars’), do not show a complete picture of family life. The connection between Ruth Thorne and Dennis Thorne is very special. She is also a surrogate mother to Dr. Frank Greene, her brother’s son. Ruth prepares chocolate cakes, as well as sting operations.

Saluting the Influences on Atlas Reborn


For the creative side, I grew up watching English films and serials. ‘Planet of the Apes’ and ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ triggered my affinity for the genre. But it was Michael Crichton’s ‘Congo’, ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘The Lost World’ that inspired me to become a writer. ‘Star Wars’ redefined the word saga. Yet, my intention was to have my concept grounded in a familiar galaxy.

I am not unaware of the chaos that surrounds me. Some may dismiss Atlas Reborn as a simple adventure story, but it is a possibility of sorts. Even though the work is fictitious, it can become a reality one day. In a world where civilians bear the brunt of political agendas, wars and imposed ideals, a peaceful approach is essential. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, to a large extent, have been my inspiration. One doesn’t have to dissolve political borders to bring peace. Merely create cultural bridges to end conflicts. The very term Atlas Reborn means a refreshed approach to seeing the world as a global village.